Scars

[Image description: close up of a dried beech leaf with several holes, against the backdrop of a gray sky and bare tree branches]

Some scars are visible at a glance,
like the one that misshapes
my right eyebrow,
acquired playing tag as a kid
too close to the side mirror
of my dad’s parked Oldsmobile.

Many scars, perhaps even most,
can only be seen by the reverberations
of their aftermath, how they shape
reactions and responses,

how they cause
fight or
flee or
freeze or
fawn,
cause to believe one must
choose between one self-betrayal
or another.

Too many of us think
we have to see,
to understand the cause
in order to accept,
to accommodate what a person needs,
to affirm validity of healing,

as though we must agree
with someone’s navigation
of their own experience before
we deem them worthy.

When truth is there are experiences
we will never understand
because we do not bear those scars,
inhabit that body,
live that life.

Love says we don’t have to understand,
to endure the same wounds
to experience the same challenges,
in order to believe someone’s truth,
to welcome them as they are.

Possibility

[Image description: a narrow woods with leafless trees silhouetted against the sky just as the sun is rising. Along the horizon behind the trees, the sky is starting to brighten golden and the sky above the trees is light blue. ]

We’re told there will be
wars and rumors of wars
and some people look forward
to this possibility,

perhaps opportunistically,
perhaps sadistically,
perhaps from a sense
of pride or heroism.

We’re told it’s naive
to dream that causes
of war, of destruction,
could be addressed,

that power could be shared,
that systems could be changed,
that things don’t have to stay
the way things have been made.

We’re told trying something different
would be a disaster because
some different things have
gone wrong in the past,

as though the way things are
now hasn’t been
going wrong for
a very long time.

We’re told this is how
it must be, as though
people didn’t lead us
here on purpose

with domination,
exploitation,
division,
greed.

Perhaps it’s time to question why
we limit what we accept
as possible to such a narrow
range of options.

Perhaps it’s time to stop
listening to what we’re told
and start living into new
possibilities together.

News

[Image description: cover of a gray book cover that features a picture of yellow flowers in a meadow and white text across that top that reads “Heresy and Other Prayers: Poems and Pictures]

No new poem this week, because I spent all my writing time this weekend working on finalizing the publishing of my book!

Heresy and Other Prayers: Poems and Pictures is now up on Blurb and will soon be available from other retailers. A huge thank you to all my friends and readers who have followed along on my writing journey, and to my family for understanding why I disappear for several hours a week to write.

Until now, I was never certain this book was actually going to happen. It took months to choose which poems and which pictures to include, and then even more time to find and hire a copy editor, wait for the editing, and format the edited copy. I wavered multiple times, wondering who I thought I was to self-publish a book and more than once found myself caught up in feelings of it not being a “real” book because there was no book deal or formal approval involved. And all of this while experiencing multiple life upheavals, including finding and starting a new job in a completely different industry.

But, here we are.

I’m grateful for all the writers, artists, musicians, and makers whose commitment to sharing their work helped me remember the importance of our creative pursuits and for everyone who encouraged me and expressed their enthusiasm for being able to read my work in book form.

Lastly, I will always be indebted to Audre Lorde. It was reading her essay “Poetry is Not a Luxury” that helped me embrace the power of poems and my desire to write and share them.

“But there are no new ideas still waiting in the wings to save us as women, as human. There are only old and forgotten ones, new combinations, extrapolations and recognitions from within ourselves, along with the renewed courage to try them out. And we must constantly encourage ourselves and each other to attempt the heretical actions our dreams imply and some of our old ideas disparage. In the forefront of our move toward change, there is only our poetry to hint at possibility made real.”
– Audre Lorde

Moon Shadows

[Image description: the outline tree branches and silhouette of a person cast in shadow by moonlight across snow-covered ground]

Gray silhouettes
extend at angles
across fresh
snowfall.

Winter branches,
awareness seemingly
unchanged despite their
shadows cast by moonlight
instead of sun.

But trees know the moon’s
silvery light contains
a magic echo,
a beckoning to wonder,
a depth of imagination
obscured in bright of day.

Their knowing draws me
into the frozen night,
frosty air filling lungs,
changed somehow by adding
my own moon shadow
next to theirs.

Pedestals

Pedestals are
no place for humans,
fumbling, fallible, fickle,
as we are.

Yes, even
your beloved grandparent,
your political party figurehead,
your religious leader,
that motivational speaker
you adore.

Pedestals can
obscure important truths,
conceal harmful patterns,
mask wayward motivations.

No one deserves
our uncritical support,
our unexamined esteem,
our unchecked admiration,
our unfettered loyalty.

Oh, the devastating
consequences
of hero-worship,
of following blindly
where another leads.

Thoughts on an Icy Day

[Image description: close up of dried leaves in a creek bed, with a delicate ice formation curling between them.]

Keep showing up for work,
at school events
and the supermarket.
Keep acting like the world isn’t
fraying around the edges,
unraveling,
coming apart
in so many ways.

Make sure to put on a normal face,
because that is the expectation.

Don’t let it show that
pandemic waves and
unsustainable practices and
societal demands and
personal crises
might be getting to you,
freezing your once-easy grins
into worried eyes
and forced half-smiles.

Unless.

Unless we stop pretending,
stop letting status quo demands
keep us frozen in place
and admit that things
need to change.

Unless we make it okay
to say things like
“We’re not okay” and
“This is hard”
and work together
to find a different
way forward.

Gathering

[Image description: Photo of a collage of pictures taken from magazines. The bottom picture shows a shoreline with large rocks and a tall island silhouetted against a blue and orange sky and the sky is reflected in the shallow waves of the water. The top picture is a black-and-white ghostlike picture of trees with drooping branches reflected in calm, glasslike water. In the center of the collage, overlaying the other top pictures is a Viking ship. The word “Gathering” is pasted on the ship.]

We are told not to live in the past,
or dwell on what has been,
yet our lives ebb and flow and some wisdom
is gleaned only in hindsight.

Memories, waves veining across sand
in the rose-golden light of retrospection
beckon us, carry us, navigate back to
gather in the previously unobserved.

Wandering revealed as labyrinth path,
the trivial unveiled as meaningful,
former aches and longings
rediscovered as deepest truth.

Time offers perspective, not forgiveness.
Perspective offers understanding,
shows the way to forgive ourselves
for what we didn’t know.

Reasons

[Image description: close-up of a black-eyed Susan blossom, with most of the bright yellow petals unfurled, except for two that are still joined together over the brown center of the bloom. In the background are green stems, leaves and buds of other black-eyes Susans.]

You don’t have to keep
wasting time in attempt
to fit in,
to conform,
to meet arbitrary expectations.

There are reasons
you are the way you are.

Learn them.
Examine them.
Take the time
to understand all their
light and shadows.

Follow the breadcrumbs
to the mysteries you haven’t
yet discovered,
the truths yet to unfurl.

Your Pandora’s box fears
are unfounded.

Your truest self is a gift of beauty
to yourself and to the world.

Poem to My Younger Self

Sometimes I want to listen to something different.
Folk music. Indie pop.
And sometimes I do,
even though I have to pay attention to the words,
get caught up in any genius of the lyrics,
get distracted from whatever else is going on.

But mostly I listen to Claudia Berti and Hania Rani
on repeat for hours every day,
no lyrics to get tangled in,
just vibrant piano notes resonating,
tones filling chest,
clearing mind,
softening breath.

God, I’ve always loved the sounds
a piano makes.

Sometimes the music makes me think of
my six-year-old self who longed to learn all the notes
as well as the lady who played hymns on the old piano at church,
who would sometimes let me sit next to her on the hard wooden bench
and nod at me when it was time to turn the music page.

I would tell that younger me it’s okay she couldn’t make herself
sit long enough to really practice and never passed book four.

Sometimes music calls to mind my teenage self,
desperate to fit in, find her place, her people,
who learned to play music by chords on the keyboard
to join the youth group praise band.
Even then, always on the periphery.
Performing music, performing roles,
none of it coming naturally.

I would tell her it’s okay the group dynamics
always felt forced, through a mask, never intuitive.

I would tell her one day she’ll discover
she forms connections in a way that make
certain attention and certain relationships
feel just out of reach, near-misses, through a veil.

And I’d tell her someday she’ll discover
the way her mind can meander, swirl into being
a collage of words that connect, invoke clarity, resonate,
piano-music tapestry, woven by others,
the backdrop of her own expression.

Based on Isaiah 11

Our eyes perceive only destruction
when all that remains are
remnants, desolation, isolation,
severed branches, tangled roots.

Relief, impossible to comprehend,
desperation closing in.
But Spirit whispers deliverance,
painting wild possibilities.

A new day will dawn, Wisdom’s reign,
when the poor and the meek and the child
are safe and warm and held and equal,
when harmony abounds.

Connection with the source of Love will permeate,
infusing every human and non-human interaction,
the world overflowing with collective liberation
and we will finally know peace.

Note: This is one of nine poems I wrote to complement the nine readings for Lessons and Carols the Sunday after Christmas. Many commentaries I read–both Jewish and Christian–cautioned against reading Isaiah as Messianic text. So, I shied away from that, opting instead to view it through the lens of hope promised to those living in times where hope seems distant.